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Nature’s Medicine Chest

April 8th, 2011

This is an abridged article written by Jan Bower, Yolo County Master Gardener,  from “The Yolo Gardener” Fall 2010 Newsletter–a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners. Thank you Jan for this great information!  To read the full article, visit their website here.

Herbs have a variety of uses. They flavor foods, perfume gifts, repel insects, heal illnesses, and serve as companion plants. They can be grown in their own formal garden, along a pathway, or in containers.  They played an important role in traditional medicine, but are also playing an increasingly important role in modern medicine.

For medicinal purposes, the herbs are most often prepared as teas, oils, or spices used in foods, but they can also be inhaled in steam baths and included in ointments, poultices, pills, powders, and gargles. One thing to keep in mind, however, in using herbs for healing is that some of them might be poisonous or addictive so consulting a medical practitioner before use is recommended.

Disclaimer: Medicinal herbs have been with us since the earliest of times. However, many have not been proven to be effective for all of their traditional uses; one should always consult a medical professional before self-treating with an herb.

Here is a short list of some familiar herbs and their medicinal qualities and applications – all of which can be found in the Good Life Garden!

  • Basil  (Ocimum basilicum) comes in many varieties with different scents and flavors. Used widely in tomato-based dishes, it can be a remedy for diseases of the brain, heart, lungs, kidney, and bladder and is often mixed with borage in a tea to revive lowered vitality. The dried leaves are also made into snuff to remedy headaches and colds. One variety has the distinct aroma of camphor and has been known to draw out poison from insect stings and bites.

    Check out all that basil from our herb harvest last year!

  • Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) and berries from the bay laurel tree have a volatile oil that can be applied externally to bruises and sprains, dropped into ears to relieve pain, and used to treat rheumatism, hysteria, and flatulence. As an essential ingredient of a “bouquet garni” (a bundle of herbs that are tied together and used in cooking), bay leaves can improve the appetite and cure fevers.
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    bay laurel

    One of the few bay laurels we have in the garden.

  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) contain a pungent oil that stimulates the appetite, aids with kidney function, and helps lower high blood pressure.
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) seeds and leaves can serve as a laxative, relieve dizziness, help purify the blood, or help cure kidney stones and other urinary dysfunctions.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is used to strengthen eyesight and refresh tired eyes. The seeds produce an oil that helps digestion and relieves asthma and abdominal pain.
     
    fennel

    We had some massive fennel last year!

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) has the effect of smelling salts – it calms nerves, relaxes tensions, and alleviates faintness, dizziness, and insomnia. Used in the bath, lavender refreshes the skin and is recommended for oily complexions and pimples.
     
    lavender

    Who DOESN'T love lavender? It smells amazing, is awesome for home remedies, and is gorgeous.

  • Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is used to fight bad colds, cramps and other digestive disorders, painful swellings, rheumatism, colic, and nervous headaches.
  • Mint (Mentha arvensis) provides relief for colds, inflammation of mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, gallbladder disorders, gastrointestinal pain from gas, and muscle and nerve pain.

    peppermint

    Be careful of mint - it has a variety of uses but can take over your garden! That's why we keep it in a raised bed.

  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is rich in iron, vitamins A, B, and C, and an oil called apiol, which is extracted from the seeds for therapy related to infections of the urinary tract, general disease prevention, and treatment of digestion and circulation problems, and kidney stones.

    parsley

    Who knew parsley had so many uses and was filled with so many vitamins?

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) stimulates memory and circulation, relieves headaches and other rheumatic conditions, and strengthens eyesight.
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis) decreases sweating, restores energy and memory, and is helpful in digestion, particularly as it relates to the liver. It is found in mouthwashes and gargles because of its antiseptic properties and is used to whiten teeth and heal inflammations of the mouth and throat, e.g. gingivitis and sore gums due to wearing dentures.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is used to treat bronchitis, whooping cough, sore throats, colds, headaches, cramps, colic, bowel and bladder disorders, bad eyesight, and loss of appetite.
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UPDATE: IT’S NOT TOO LATE to plan for the Fall / Winter Season

October 26th, 2010

For all you local gardeners who may be feeling like you’ve missed the boat by not sowing your seeds yet for the Fall / Winter season; it’s not too late!  (Or, at least we hope so!)

Pat, our gardener (in the hat), takes a moment to speak with a journalist.  Note how she has cut back many of our garden perennials like chives and the ornamental society garlic to grow again during the Fall and Winter season.

Last week our gardener Pat worked hard on the “out with the old” chore of garden clean-up by pulling out any herbs unharvested by our enthusiastic community of gleaners!  (Thank you again to those who participated in our last herb harvest of the year!)  She also began prepping the soil by working in compost from our own Student Farm, along with a soil supplement we told you about last season called Earthworks Renovate/Plus.  For more information about this product check out our previous blog entry on the topic here.

This patch is where we grew our corn.  The spearmint patch in the foreground looks very happy doesn’t it?  It smells great too, but don’t forget to keep it pulled up and pruned back from areas where you don’t want it–mint likes to take over!

It is looking rather barren out there now.  It’s times like these when there’s hope in the air…as in, I hope something grows from all those seeds of lettuce, chard, kale, beets, etc. we’ll be planting this week!

What’s going on with your garden so far this season?

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MINT: Why is it everywhere?

April 1st, 2010

At the UC Davis Good Life Garden, our gardener Arlene knows that it is important to keep mint, corralled because before you know it, it’s everywhere! The smallest bits, if not completely pulled out by its roots (and there are a LOT of roots) can spawn new plants behind your back!

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It smells great and is an important ingredient in a variety of dishes from all over the world, not to mention its beneficial value in aromatherapy at helping to relieve stress and increase energy. Mint also serves as a beautiful, low-growing ground cover, but keep it pruned because, like Arlene mentions in the video below, it has a strong and prolific root system. This is one of the reasons why we have chosen to keep some of our mint in a raised planter bed–we can keep a better eye on those sprawling branches!

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It’s not just peppermint either! Here our garden supervisor Ed Nordstrom shows us how our spearmint has begun to invade our sage patch. In his opinion, left on its own, the spearmint would cover nearby Interstate 80! Sounds good to me!

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